Saturday, December 6, 2014
It Makes You Wonder
There has been a considerable amount of research done, and an equal amount of articles written about the God gene; specifically that certain areas of the brain "light up" and show activity when one is engaged in spiritually-related thought. And I've often wondered how it was for early man, before people came together as hunter-gatherers and farmers, and began to live together in communities. Back before the first shamans arose, back before priests and "organized religion." Back when it was just Man, and the world around him. How did he express his sense of wonder about everything, before written language, before people began to "divide" themselves into various "denominations."
But that's not specifically what this blog entry is about. I'm more fascinated with brain activity as it relates to individual interests and abilities, along with the mystery of genetics as they relate to the same interests and abilities.
As a student of music and literature, I have had countless experiences with individuals who display both strengths and weaknesses regarding writing and sound. On one hand, there are people that demonstrate considerable comprehension with tone recognition, rhythm sequences, chordal structure and creativity with musical elements. And of course, there are those who demonstrate just the opposite; they have little to no ability in discerning pitch or musical structure. They may listen to music, but they don't understand it.
And the same holds true for language and literature. I've known people who display an innate ability for writing, character development, and literary devices like irony, imagery, foreshadowing, etc., in spite of their level of language mastery (including grammar). They may make technical errors, but they display a real penchant for writing, reporting, story telling, etc.
And combining these two areas - music and language - I've seen the same thing. There are people with considerable musical ability who seem to lack the talent for song writing or creation, which includes the elements of meter and rhyme. They can copy or emulate a song, but they lack the talent to actually create one.
Taking this train of thought, I've applied it to other areas of human interest. This may not be specifically scientific, but I do believe there is validity and merit in my theory; that people don't (or don't always) gravitate toward an interest because they like it, but in fact they gravitate towards it and like it because they possess a talent or skill in that area.
I have had guitar students who have persevered and been religious about practice/rehearsal, but it was clear to me that they would probably not progress or develop past a certain level of competency. They could play the instrument with some accuracy, but they would never rise to the level of writing/performing. Again, they could play, but they seemed to lack the creative spark.
The concept of nature vs nurture usually comes up at this point in the conversation, and I totally agree with it; that the level to which a person advances with any ability is a combination of both natural ability and encouragement of that ability.
My point in all this is that if people can display what seem to be natural, elemental abilities - music, language, mathematics, sports, dance, painting - then it seems totally valid to me that some people's brains are more attuned to spiritual and existential thought, and other people's brains just don't have the same electrical circuits in that part of the brain.
There's no question that people express different levels of spirituality, or at least they express it in different ways, from simple quiet meditation to writing on the floor in an almost epileptic state. I don't believe this is totally a matter of nurture and how they were brought-up.
It is my belief that just as people exhibit varying levels of ability and interest in activities - music, art, sports, hunting, fishing, child care, elder care, you name it - something in our brains is connected with or related to a sense of spirituality and existentialism. That particular circuit of the brain can be simple and uncomplicated or it can be more advanced.
Now, clearly, anything can be taken to a level of absurdity and dementia. As humans, we can become fixated and obsessed with most anything. This is no secret or epiphany.
I firmly believe that as the science of brain mapping advances, that most all areas of human ability and talent will be identified if not measured.